San Mateo Daily Journal
March 31, 2015
By Jonathan Madison
In a previous column, I discussed that in politics, you and I — the American voters — are an external force that has the capacity to fundamentally influence the success of candidates and public policies that navigate the direction of our nation. I also discussed the need for voters to vote for what is best for their communities, rather than feeling bound by allegiances, or concerns about who is most right, rather than what is most right.
Some have called me naive for suggesting that this should make voters feel empowered to make a difference in the policies that govern our nation. After all, we know that interest groups play a key role in influencing our political system through their large-scale financing power. However, the goal of influencing the American voter is often the same, which means that power is still ultimately vested in the hands of the American voter.
On March 17, Bay Area voters reaffirmed their belief in that power in the special election to fill the state senate seat representing the East Bay counties of Contra Costa and Alameda — a seat that was formerly held by democrat Mark DeSaulnier. Many thought this was a typical election that would be determined by the strong arm financing power of labor unions. Oddly enough, this time labor unions targeted resources to defeat Steve Glazer — a moderate democrat and former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown.
You may find yourself questioning why labor unions would use big money to defeat a democrat on the ballot, particularly when the candidate has been an aide to a governor who is an avid supportive of big labor. The answer is quite simple. Just two years ago, you may recall two historic strikes by Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART) employees that cost the region nearly $73 million in worker productivity and delayed about 400,000 BART commuters for weeks.
While most labor-friendly democrats refused to stand up to the labor unions, Steve Glazer — then a candidate for Assembly — ardently condemned the transit strikes. He should be commended — not for speaking out against the transit strikes, but for having the courage to advocate for commuters in the face of intense pressure from big labor and other liberal advocates to act in the contrary. To many, this was no surprise as Glazer is known to be a pragmatic business friendly candidate.
Labor unions did not take his words lightly, to say the least. In fact, labor unions successfully rallied to defeat Glazer in the June 2014 primary. To my pleasant surprise, voters acted in their own best interests in the March 17 special election, despite being barraged by advertisements from left-leaning groups via the radio, primetime TV and direct mail. Glazer successfully utilized the support of many to successfully defeat three of his five opposing candidates. He will now face a runoff against democrat Susan Bonilla on May 19.
Just after the election, Glazer released a statement calling the election results “positive evidence that voters want a fiscally responsible bipartisan problem solver who is independent from powerful special interests.” I think we can all agree that this is what all of us crave in a candidate. The problem is that candidates like Glazer are a diamond in the rough, particularly in this day in age, when too few of our public servants are willing to break party lines to advocate for the betterment of the lives of the constituents that elected them.
I urge all of you to keep an eye on Glazer’s runoff election as the results may further jolt the political landscape. The results of this special election are proof that beyond the present historically low rate of voter turnout and disengagement, at least some voters are deciding to vote for their interests rather than a special interest yes man. This is what our system ultimately depends on — you and I working to elect those that truly represent us. I hope you will stand with me in working to make informed voter turnout the determining tide in every election going forward.